Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mexican Being(er)

Mexican Culture is Performative... At least in the U.S. 

       Stereotypes create culture as culture creates stereotypes. To be Mexican outside of Mexico is all a performance because there is no knowledge of what it means to be The Other. Mexican cultural elements are deculturalized when taken by other countries like American (or any other country). The value of such Mexican cultural elements only hold an economic value for Americans and the Otherness of the Mexican culture becomes a show, a performance.

Take for example, the Mexican Mariachi hat:

The hat is being used completely outside of context in a way Mexicans would not use it. Truth to be told, those hats are worn only in cultural and national festivities (includes Soccer matches when the national team is playing), it is part of folklore, part of a dance composed of a wonderful and colorful costume which includes the Mariachi Hat. It creates patriotic feelings, and group belonging.

Why does the Mariachi hat have to be taken outside of its culture, lose its cultural value as part of the Mexican culture? And become a joke, a show, an Other?

James Luna has responded  to these questions in his art:

 James Luna observing Columbus Day 2010, 
front of Columbus Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Take a Picture with A Real Indian

Link to YouYube

I want to take this project a little further. And present two performative pieces from my culture.

La Danza de los Viejitos de Michoacan.

Here is an example of the dance in its more traditional way:

YouTube Link here

El Chuntaro Style de El Gran Silencio.

YouTube Link here

     These two performances encapsulate two different subcultures within the Mexican culture. And I wanted to perform those dances outside of their traditional context. I also focused on the costume and the process of becoming a performer in these subcultures. The following performances are composed by one dancer or performer. The dancer performs in a non-conventional space, the performance is in front of a camera only, no audience. The performance is somewhat improvised and not following completely the traditional style of each piece.
I show the masking process of my identity to take different performative identities. In the end showing how I react to the idea of performing  instead of being who I am. Here is the final product:

Mexican Being-er

Link to YouTube here

Friday, May 10, 2013

Robert Gober, Inside the Real Outside

More Real than the Real
Robert Gober was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1954. Graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1976 he moved to New York, where he lives now as a retiree.
His art incorporates sculpture and painting mainly. Gober works with objects that are somewhat domestic such as sinks, beds, cribs, doors an others, he distorts these pieces and usually puts them together in one space where he incorporates his painting. He explores sexuality, relationships, nature, politics, and religion. His work is often based on memories from his childhood or on familiar subject matter from around his home or studio. He has a variety of solo exhibitions that date from 1988 and has won several awards.
His practice: the distortion of objects that belong to a materialist/religious/domestic society. “Radical shifts of tone, the interpretations of illusions, juxtapositions of high and low, nature and culture, sublime and banal.” His distorted objects are believed to be anti-modernists.                
Example of pieces:

                                                                                 Untitled, 1999-2000
Conceptual art: Each piece individually is a reaction to concepts explored by artists throughout history. Each piece holds a social commentary.

Although his work can be appreciated and analyzed as segments or individual parts it is necessary to analyze it as it is presented in galleries and museums, as a whole exhibition. 

Example of Exhibition: his installation at Dia Center for the Arts, NY. 

                                                                          Untitled, installation view, 1992
Video link to this installation: Here.

The pieces together in one room are carefully arranged to have the audience experience what some critics call “postindustrial despair.” A struggle to interact with mass-produced industrial materials due to the imprisoning space that does not allow the audience to escape from the reality constructed with unreal objects. 


The door promises scape from this reality, but the doors do not lead anywhere or lead to a space that is part of the same reality.
Window shows outside that is fake (lighting is artificial).
There is a real sink (it functions) that is taken outside context. It reminds the viewer of a home that is outside of that room. A home that does not exist in this reality.
A real nature exists somewhere, however it’s lost and barricaded since all you see is a painting of a forest.
Nothing in the room is real “we stand ‘inside’ a room that puts us ‘outside’.” It is a private room and we become more alien within it.

For more on Gober I recommend the San Francisco MOMA website.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Resurection of the Difference

From the "Other" to the "Us"

"We all become living specimens under the spectral light of ethnology, or of anti-ethnology which is only the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of difference." Baudrillard.

                         Jean Fouquet, Melun Diptych.
We exist in the real because we identify the unreal. By describing, discovering/uncovering the "Other" we define ourselves. But how does this relate to religious imagery and more specifically, to Virgin Mary? In the following I will apply Jean Baudrillard's philosophy (or my understanding of his philosophy) in collaboration with my Religious Studies to understanding the multiplicity of the imagery of Virgin Mary and its massive (re)production.  

Representations of Virgin Mary (from paintings to statues) are "real" because they are physical manifestations (constructed by society) of the ideal woman. The paintings and sculptures that become sacred are real because they are signs or symbols that hold "dead differences." In other words, we construct Virgin Mary by establishing her as the Other. We construct differences between ourselves and Her. 
     -She is what we are not.
     -She is who we want to be, or from a patriarchal (and sexist) perspective what males want women to be.
     -we cannot be like her.
     -Social punishment happens to those who do not follow Virgin Mary's example.

Virgin Mary is real because we need to establish what we are not in order to prove that we exist. Nevertheless, when we describe her, imagine her, think of her... we create her based on what we want her to be, or most likely, what we need her to  be (that which we usually are not, or that which we want to be).

Her image is "real" then, because it becomes Her, a manifestation of the ideal woman or ideal self.

I have developed a sort of thesis that is clearly influenced by my experience in Mexico and Catholicism. Where Our Lady of Guadalupe has a strong presence and importance. But this does not mean that cannot be applied to other countries (Italy's Maddona is one example) and their reproduction of religious images and statues. 

Where do we go from here?

To Google Search "Sexy Virgin Mary." But actually. I highly recommend it. You will be surprised at what you will find. The representations of Virgin Mary in the United States and perhaps other more liberal or non-Catholic countries can be very challenging to the conservative representation of Our Holy Virgin Mary. You can find artist's representations of Virgin Mary that present just the opposite to what you can think of that relates to the biblical Mary mother of Jesus.

... the list goes on

In other words, you get something like this:

                    Joe Coleman, Virgin Mary.

To me, any representation of Mother Virgin Mary is "true" to its creator. Whether it is a collective construction or an individual's. This allows and motivates anybody, who is interested enough, to come up with whatever "Virgin Mary" they want to create.

This is where the other element fits in: the rapid mass production of pop cultural representations of Mary.

To avoid getting into another topic I will just add that as a response to all these observations and problems I came across when thinking about this project I produced the following video:

Making Mary Mother

Here it is again in YouTube.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Simulating Religious Imagery

I am finding new thins that I relate to my art. I do not know how this inspires me yet, but I want to share it here and wait to see if it affects my development as an artist in future projects.

<p>Josh Iguchi (1964- ), <em>The Last Supper</em>, 1995; Ektacolor photograph, 48 x 96 inches (Frame: 58 x 106 inches); Gift of Wade Stevenson, 1998</p>
Josh Iguchi, The Last Supper (1995).

I found the picture here: 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bill Viola's Artless Art

How can art be artless?

                                                                           Bill Viola, Becoming Light (2005)

The answer is simple, create art without restricting yourself. Use the media, the tools you have and do, create, be creative. Or at least that is what I think Bill Viola is trying to say. He has an understanding of the world that he obtained through understanding himself and who he is in connection to others.

In his lecture at Lawrence University he talked about two things that resonated with me. One is the importance of technology in our generation and how it is just a tool that can be used for the "good, or the bad." Viola states that we have been using technology for the wrong things and he encourages us to give it a new purpose and to teach the older generations how to stop "screwing it up." I have read McLuhan's emphasis on the media and how "the medium is the message." I am reading Jean Baudrillard's Simulations and his focus on the masking of reality through media, transforming our world into a simulated reality. I was processing all of this into a negative feeling against technology and the media. Nevertheless, after listening to Bill Viola's comment that technology just exists and what matters is how we use it, I started to question how I relate to the media. I cannot focus on my discontent of technology (specially because I use it every day), but in the way we use it for things that I do not appreciate. This gives a new direction to my artistic development.

The second thing that Viola mentioned in his lecture that interested me is his muse or inspiration, Religion. I am interested in the role of religion in human life. Viola prefers to call it spirituality, I still think he is referring to an aspect of religion. He has traveled and studied different religions capturing religious traditions. He presents religious views that can be labeled somewhat Buddhist, but that does not matter because it is about the message and spirituality, not about the religious institution or denomination. I am inspired by the way he connects his religious views to his art.

Here is the work that most fascinated me:
                                                                                         Bill Viola, Emergence (2002).

Link to YouTube video of Viola's Emergence: YouTube video

Monday, April 15, 2013

Religious Simulacra

Religion, Religion, Religion 

Religious Imagery

Religious Imagery has been used and over-used for almost any purpose that might not even be religious. The phenomena that interests me is the power these images might have over people. Artists have been inspired by religion, or I dare to argue, Religion has been inspired by art. One way or the other, religious imagery and iconography have been expressed through different media such as the 12th Century Italian painting of the Virgin Mary (The Madonna as Advocate), to the 2002 high-definition video inspired bythe representation of the placing of Jesus Christ in the tomb, Emergence, by Bill Viola (you can find the video here: YouTube).

An interesting phenomena occurs when religious images are reproduced in various and infinite ways. The images become the "real" thing and not what they represent. Jean Baudrillard's Simulations develops this concept further.

I originally wanted to capture the idea that a portrait of religious figure becomes that which it is trying to represent. In other words, a portrait of the Virgin Mary becomes the Virgin Mary in the sense that people attribute sentimental and some times spiritual value to such portrait. One of many examples if the painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe which is now The "Mother of the Americas" (Latin America) and holds more than a religious value, becoming a religion of its own or a cult where the Virgin of Guadalupe is more important than the Catholic God Himself.

In the following still I tried to convey the idea that any picture can become the "real" representation of the Virgin Mary as long as the right conditions (institutionalized propaganda from the Vatican, a religious narrative, and a group of faithful worshipers) were presented.

Here is my first attempt to capture the New Holy Virgin Mary:

Holy Virgin Mary's Secret
Model: Katy Abdul

Pictures in:

To be honest it did not work. There could not be found any relationship with Virgin Mary so I had to take a new set of pictures. 

I stumbled upon a picture of Miles Aldrige that inspired me and gave me a new direction. 
  ImmaculĂ©e by Miles Aldrige

I captured images that spoke on my behalf, but the images themselves have a language of their own and are not limited to my own interpretation. 

So here is my second attempt to capture my version of Virgin Mary:

Holy Mother Virgin Mary
Model: Katy Abdul

Pictures in:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sonja Thomsen

The Artist's Art 

   I have always wondered about the relationship between the artist and his or her art and what is the importance of this bond. As an artist Sonja Thomsen has inspired me to think harder about what my art means to me. 

    Her photography is more than the subject matter, more than the process, it is herself. At least that is what I observed about her when she was giving her lecture at Lawrence University. When she thinks of a concept she starts by thinking what is her relation to that concept, she engages with the process always relating it to herself creating wonderful pieces that engage her audience not only at a psychological level but also at a physical level. 

    I am looking forward to apply these ideas to my own artistic development.